Saturday, January 29, 2011
Essential Albums of the 80s: Paula Abdul - Forever Your Girl (1988)
Today, Paula Abdul is best known as a former judge on the hit TV reality show American Idol, but she first came to fame as a dance pop artist in the late '80s. The album was a major success, generating four #1 hits--a record for a debut (shared with Mariah Carey)--but its success wasn't apparent at first.
When initially released in the summer of 1988, Forever Your Girl generated little interest. Its first single was a minor hit, charting just outside the top 40 but making the R&B top 10. Its follow up, "The Way that You Love Me" fared worse, peaking at #88, although it too did well on the R&B chart. With the release of the album's third single, "Straight Up," Abdul's popularity finally took off, with the single climbing to #1. This success was helped in part by the song's cool video, a black & white dance routine of a video directed by David Fincher and featuring guest Arsenio Hall. Fincher also directed Abdul's next three videos, including "Cold Hearted," an homage to Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. Most of her videos featured choreographed dancing, no surprise given that Abdul had been a dance choreographer for the L.A. Lakers' cheerleaders and later Janet Jackson's Control-era videos.
I received Forever Your Girl as a Christmas present in 1989 (along with Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 and Milli Vanilli's Girl You Know It's True). At the time, I was a bit disappointed with it because most of the singles sounded different on the album because they had been remixed as they were released. This is particularly true of "Forever Your Girl," which has more keyboard layers in its original form and less interesting drum programming, and "Opposites Attract," which lacked the MC Skat Kat rap.
The album is mostly upbeat save for one ballad, "Next to You," which isn't particularly memorable. What is memorable are the songs that you know the most, such as the minor-keyed dance pop classics "Straight Up" and "Cold Hearted," both produced by Elliot Wolff and Keith Cohen with prominent bass keyboards and sharp beats. And although it wasn't one of the biggest hits, I've always been partial to the sleek opening track, "The Way that You Love Me."
Best: Straight Up, Cold Hearted, Opposites Attract, The Way that You Love Me, Forever Your Girl